Saturday, October 16

Why do male politicians love to take off their shirts for photographs? | Coronavirus


SSince the miraculous invention of a vaccine for Covid-19, a second discovery has been made: Male politicians love to remove their shirts to take a photo. In the UK, you’re more likely to find a bare-chested Conservative MP than a Labor MP: Brendan Clarke-Smith and Johnny Mercer are the movement’s poster boys, glowing in chest hair as they pose for the cameras.

Internationally, there are subtle variations: French ministers like to cover their exposed nipple with their spare sleeve, while proudly exposing massive biceps and noble shoulders. His finance minister, Olivier Véran, in particular, looks as though a hot delivery driver has caught him off guard straight out of the shower at the beginning of an eighties porn movie.

Olivier Véran receives his vaccination in Melun, France.
Olivier Véran receives his Covid vaccine in Melun, France. Photography: Jeanne Accorsini / DICOM / Sipa / Rex / Shutterstock

In Greece and Ukraine, the directive came from the top: Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy stripped naked extremely quickly, the former stripping in January, the latter fully topless while defying the needle.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy receives his Covid vaccine in eastern Ukraine.
Volodymyr Zelenskiy receives his Covid vaccine in eastern Ukraine. Photograph: Presidential Press Service / Reuters

Of course, it is possible that none of these men knew how to dress for the occasion. A vaccination volunteer at Oval, one of the centers near parliament, said: “You have to get right to the middle of the deltoid muscle, which is two fingers below the shoulder bone.” If you need that bone for reference, few men would be able to wear their shirt this high, regardless of the way their arms were.

Brendan Clarke-Smith poses for a photo while receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Brendan Clarke-Smith poses for a photo while receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine. Photography: Brendan Clarke-Smith

However, the volunteer, who does not wish to be identified, has little patience with the man who arrives in a tight white T-shirt on his way to work. “It’s not just that you’re going to have to take it off. Also, it could bleed. Moron.”

Surely, so far in the vaccination program, and social media being what it is, all politicians know what the jab will entail.

The bare-chested photoshoot in Westminster dates back to 2012, when Dan Poulter, a health minister, got a flu shot with two clearly defined bare pecs and a look of indescribable, almost endearing self-satisfaction. If the expression on his face is not sufficient evidence that he intentionally undressed, please note that he is a doctor. There is very little chance that you did not know how the injections were done.

Is there any deeper political symbolism involved? Vladimir Putin loved to show his bare chest, on top of a horse, next to a tiger rug, whenever he wanted to. Matteo Salvini, the hard-line Eurosceptic from Italy, posed half-naked in bed, defying what appears to be form by looking extremely unattractive and proud of it.

Vladimir Putin on vacation in Siberia in 2009
Vladimir Putin on vacation in Siberia in 2009. Photograph: AFP / Getty Images

Dr. Luke Cooper, author of a book on the European right, Authoritarian Contagion, says: “The question is, why do these leaders find highly male sexualized representation politically useful? The best answer I’ve heard is that masculinity is not just about power over women, it’s also about passing on your power over other men. “

What’s interesting is that these regular naturists, and the far right in general, suddenly became very modest when it came to their Covid jab. Putin was vaccinated without the presence of photographers; Hungarian Viktor Orbán was dressed in an indulgent white T-shirt, modestly rolled up to reveal nothing more than a small patch of shoulder; Brazilian Jair Bolsonaro, of course, has more important things to worry about, like whether vaccination could turn people into crocodiles.

Matteo Salvini meets his followers on the beach of Baia-Domitia, Caserta
Matteo Salvini meets his followers on the beach of Baia-Domitia, Caserta, last August. Photography: Manuel Dorati / SIPA / REX / Shutterstock

The chest as a masculine signifier only works for the real man when he is completely gratuitous (Putin) or completely frivolous (Boris Johnson, heading to the sea wearing only his trunks, before a G7 meeting. “That was similar to Salvini,” Cooper notes, “a very privileged image that indicates that you don’t have to meet particular records of masculinity to continue to be seen as a superior guy.” If you’re wondering if that’s an academic way of calling him chubby, then yes, me too).

Boris Johnson swims in Carbis Bay, Cornwall
Boris Johnson indicates that he does not have to meet particular records of masculinity to continue to be seen as a superior boy. Photograph: Ludovic Marin / AFP / Getty Images

Taking your shirt off for a very solid reason, therefore with your biceps flexed and sitting at their best angle, this is more of a centrist gesture – no one is attempting toxic dominance rooted in raw physics. It’s more like a flashy future-oriented image for the purposes of the public health role model.

However, you don’t see many women doing it.


www.theguardian.com

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